Mobility as a Service (MaaS) “the integration of transport services into a single mobility service accessible on demand”
(Source: MaaS Alliance). The blend of transportation services will include public transport, taxis, bikes, scooters, hire or leased vehicles.
The aim of these services is to provide an integrated end-to-end solution utilising a single platform for booking, payment and journey management. Services are designed to reduce dependence on private cars leading to greener journeys of the future by utilising the most efficient transport mode through a streamlined user experience.
Mobility as a Service Deployment
For the most part the theory of MaaS services makes perfect sense. Utilising a platform to streamline services into a single service. From a transport provider perspective, it also makes sense to try and tap into the traditional private car driver market as most vehicles are sat on driveways or unused for the vast majority of the time. Low asset utilisation certainly represents an opportunity.
Generation Y or millennials by another term seem to be much more accepting of subscription services and have rightly been driving the environmental agenda forward. Potential users will all most likely have a smart-phone which is obviously a key enabler for such services.
What is clear is that MaaS, at least in the formative years, will work best in urban areas where population density and public transport infrastructure support the natural cost effectiveness of services.
This is demonstrated where MaaS has had some successes in places such as Vienna, Antwerp and Augsberg.
Mobility as a Service | Payment Models
MaaS services come in two flavours – subscription services and pay-as-you-go (PAYG) services. Under the subscription model travellers would get unlimited access to services within the defined area for a fixed monthly fee. PAYG services charge for each journey undertaken.
Both models have their merits and the flexibility to choose between the two will appeal to many potential users.
However, from a transport provider perspective both models have inherent issues.
For users of the subscription model, how will the revenue be distributed? Suppliers will have to take a risk that revenue will broadly reflect the use and the increased volumes through the services will increase the profitability.
Pay As You Go Model (PAYG)
Under the PAYG model, why would the transport provider invest the time and effort into integrating their systems with a new platform. They would still get the cash from PAYG services anyway and not have to pay the platform commission for the privilege.
Is MaaS a viable alternative to existing modes of transport
MaaS as we sit today certainly looks like it has some potential to be effective but currently it is probably too early for deployment in any great scale.
Some services undoubtedly can fit within the MaaS infrastructure. Hourly vehicle hire services such as Zipcar and Enterprise Car Club can operate commercially by identifying suitable locations within congested urban environments.
Legislation will also support these services with measures such as congestion charging, workplace parking levy and clean air zones making it much less attractive to drive in congested urban environments. Legislation is also being put forward to legalise the use of electric scooters on the roads of the UK further adding to the transport mix available to users.
Public transport services in locations such as London can also work well, and Authorities are keen to fight the tide of lower patronage with any means at their disposal.
In the rest of the UK, the de-regulated nature of services makes this much harder to achieve. Different bus operators for example have different payment platforms and ticketing regimes which make harmonisation into a single platform very difficult. Although some of the Mayors such as Andy Burnham are trying to change this, it will obviously take some time.
Government has also provided funds through its Future Mobility Zones Fund. Some of this will be directed at areas such as Demand Responsive Bus Services which look to fill in gaps in the commercial network by offering a semi flexible service booked through a Smartphone application. Some of these services have been running through years and early forms include Dial-a-ride services. These services are normally subsidised by local government rather than being commercially self-sustaining. Indeed a number of recent trials have ceased due to the lack of commercial sustainability. Pick-Me-Up services in Oxford will be withdrawn by Go-Ahead Group following a two year pilot
Other mobility offerings will migrate to the areas which make commercial sense as a standalone solution rather than having a blanket application across all settings.
What is clear is that there will need to be a large shift in societal acceptability for MaaS services. People do not want to let go of their cars even if it makes absolute financial and environmental sense.
Covid19 and the impact on MaaS Services
Whilst the Covid19 pandemic is still evolving, it is clear that the impact on transport and personal cars are likely to remain the mode of choice for some time to come.
Until a vaccine is found, social distancing measures will need to remain in place with transport being a particularly high-risk area. Volumes will be restricted with a fraction of full capacity being available to passengers.
A lot has been made about MaaS solutions impacting the future demand within the fleet industry. Interestingly however, these services have been amongst the first to suffer as a result of the Covid19 outbreak. Subscription services run by some manufacturers have been the first casualties of the new reality as the scramble to conserve cash contracts speculative services.
An opportunity in the post-Covid world will be around cycling. Lockdown has re-ignited many peoples passion for cycling and they may see it as a long term solution for commuting to their place of work.
Companies will also realise that working from home is also a viable option for many workers, naturally reducing demand and congestion in the process. From an employee perspective working from home improves the work-life balance. It also reduces costs of commuting meaning it is a win-win for them and the employer who will see office space requirements .
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